This letter to the editor, accompanied by Mr. Neff's reply, appeared in TLD 17 (July 7, 1997).
Ronald N. Neff's first essay on the "legitimacy of the Republic" ["This government is illegitimate ... and you don't have to be an anarchist to see it," TLD 15] was most thought-provoking. I am more of the Bob Nisbet school than an anarchist of any sort, yet I loved following the line of Mr. Neff's argument and his detailing of the sundry libertarian rifts years ago. His points about the irreformability of tyranny were well made indeed.
I can't say, however, that his exhortation to free oneself from the state has much practical value. As long as smart people observe that adherence to the ruler's ethics pays off in their own lives, most smart people will play along. The danger from the ruler's point of view arises when the equation no longer adds up that way -- say in the case of economic catastrophe and the resultant breakdown of the social structure. Then, the alpha males (the white, Christian ones, anyway) will be operating under different incentives and disincentives, and there will be great disruption. That's the reason for the long effort to disarm the majority and for the recent forays against First Amendment guarantees of free speech. Oh, how they'd like to gag us Americans as they have Western Europeans and Canadians.
Ronald N. Neff replies:
Casca is right on many counts, but what he calls my exhortation was less an exhortation than it was a series of statements of fact, of which the primary one is this: We are each of us free not to cash or deposit another government check. For as long as we live. That is one way we can loosen the state's hold on us. The corollary is that to the extent that we do cash or deposit its checks, we are its slaves.
Other statements of fact: the refusal to cash or deposit them is an act of complete contempt for the state's "compassion" and "benefits." It breaks no laws. It brings down on us no wrath of the IRS, ATF, FBI, or other accomplices to governmental murder. It does not risk prison rape. But in that refusal our hands speak for us.
I further asserted that the fact that people will reject this line of action -- this safe step in the direction of self-liberation -- is evidence that they do not want self-liberation. Instead, they freely choose to continue to take part in their own enslavement, which strikes me as not particularly smart. Meanwhile they discuss and contemplate courses of political action that in some cases have no possibility whatever of bringing them even one inch closer to liberty and in other cases are sure to bring much greater harm to themselves than the one I discussed. Neither of those forms of "opposition" commends itself as particularly smart.
Casca's reply is premature. Those of us who report on tyrants' foolery must first ask what is true; then we can discuss the practicalities. To attempt the latter first is to invite falsity, misstep, and disaster.
A final comment: I am told that Plutarch wrote (I do not have the citation), "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations, and benefits." If so, he omitted to say that they who will not refuse those bounties, donations, and benefits are his accomplices.
On to Mr. Neff's second article.
Return to the "Illegitimacy" table of contents.